Why do we love Marian?
It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. In the early part of the 20th century, a community raised one of the
greatest and most groundbreaking voices heard in the modern era. Marian Anderson's church, where she began singing at
the age of 6, recognized the talent in their midst and raised the money for her to seek voice lessons with an ever-better
succession of teachers throughout her teens. They even sent her to study at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. Marian
rewarded them by embarking on a series of concert tours, singing classical pieces and spirituals. Sailing to Europe in her
twenties, Marian continued her education, mastering the wide variety of classical vocal styles and expanding her repertoire
of classical concert music. The great conductor Arturo Toscanini heard one of her concerts in Austria and said, "a voice like
hers is heard only once in a hundred years."
However, Marian is primarily known for the scandal incited when she was refused a booking Easter weekend at the concert
hall run by the Daughters of the American Revolution, Constitution Hall, in Washington, DC, for being a "singer of color."
The volume of outcry was so great that then-First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR and offered Marian the
steps of the Lincoln Memorial for her concert, which was to be free for as many who wanted to attend. Seventy-five
thousand people attended, among the largest crowds ever to gather at the monument. It was only one of the many barriers
Marian broke and firsts she recorded in her long career. Her farewell tour opened at Constitution Hall and ended at
Carnegie Hall on Easter Sunday, 1965.
Born - February 27, 1897
Died - April 8, 1993
- 1914Performed first public concerts at the age of 18
- 1917First solo concert
- 1924Began her professional concert career
- 1928Made her Carnegie Hall debut
- 1937Sang for the Roosevelts, becoming the first African-American to perform at the White House
- 1939Performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after denial by DAR to perform at Constitution Hall
- 1939Received the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP, presented by Eleanor Roosevelt
- 1952Awarded the Swedish "Litteris et Artibus" medal by King Gustav
- 1955Performed role of Ulrica in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, becoming the first African-American soloist at the
- 1956Publishes autobiography, My Lord What a Morning
- 1958Appointed alternate delegate to the United Nations by President Dwight D. Eisenhower
- 1961Performed at inauguration of John F. Kennedy
- 1963Awarded the first President's Medal of Freedom by John F. Kennedy
- 1965Performed at inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson
- 1977Won the United Nations Peace Prize
- 1978Recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, to celebrate the achievements of America's greatest performing artists, the
first year they were awarded
- 1984Received the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award
- 1986Awarded a National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts
In her own words -- On her audience:
"I have never been able to analyse the qualities that the audience contributes to a performance. The most important, I think, are sympathy, open-mindedness, expectancy, faith, and a certain support to your effort. I know that my career could not have been what it is without all these things, which have come from many people. The knowledge of the feelings other people have expended on me has kept me going when times were hard. That knowledge has been a responsibility, a challenge, and an inspiration. It has been the path to development and growth. The faith and confidence of others in me have been like shining, guiding stars."